Information and Training
Exchange of information and training of specialists in shipping was another milestone met successfully. In international forums, including the United Nations’ Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)12, these countries took a common stand in regard to reduction of the freight rates of the international shipping conferences. The committee of the ESCAP13 on transport held a meeting in November 1972 in Bangkok to discuss the questions of developing shipping in the countries of Asia including funding from Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Formation of Asian
Enjoying active interest of two of Asia’s major economic and political powers, Japan and China, the association which initially comprised Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines16, Thailand and was later joined by Brunei17 and Vietnam, has helped the continent gain greater leverage with powerful lobbies all over the world. The corner-stone of this turnaround has been the perseverance with three initial goals i.e. economic, social and cultural development, political and economic stability, and resolution of intra-regional conflicts. The intra-regional ASEAN trade jumped to $ 59.3 billion in 1995 up from $ 49.3 billion the previous year. At 19 per cent, Japan has the biggest share in ASEAN trade followed by USA at 17 per cent and the European Union at 14 per cent in 1994. To bolster inter-regional trade, attract foreign investment and develop the region as an international production base, the ASEAN countries are working hard for the realization of a Free Trade Area by the year 2000 and to reduce tariffs to 0.5 per cent by the turn of the century. Different ASEAN bodies focussing on various fields meet over 25018 times during the year and their deliberations are used to develop consensus on different subjects.
At the international level, the ASEAN Tiger countries have established the choicest group of important countries with whom they share strong trading and investment interests for deliberations on political, economic, security and other issues. The inner group is known as the dialogue partners, which now has ten members after the inclusion of Russia, China and India this year. The first seven were European Union, Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand and the USA. These dialogue partners usually assemble for a ministerial conference annually, besides the deliberations that confine at different levels throughout the year to discuss important changes in international political and economic trends.
ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)
The security concerns are discussed at a much bigger platform, the 21 members of ARF which includes the ten dialogue partners and the seven ASEAN States, Cambodia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar are also invited to the Forum. Formed only three years ago, the ARF has an initial mandate of carrying out confidence building through ARF government and strategic institutions, and non-governmental organization. . At a later stage, the ARF plans to go into preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. The data of arms and forces build up is shared by member countries, along with the schedule for military exercises.
Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM)
The ASEAN countries’ another historic initiative was in March 1996 when they held the first Asia Europe meeting in Bangkok. The meeting was attended by heads of states of European Union countries and ten Asian countries including China, Japan and Republic of Korea. The major international political issues including CTBT, a South East Asia Nuclear weapon-free zone which is an ASEAN initiative, reform in UN structure among other political issues were discussed. A number of initiatives in the economic sector including the Asian European investment promotion action plan, a business forum, possible integration of Trans-Asian railway network with Trans-European railway network were discussed.
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Another major economic initiative at the international level by the ASEAN countries is the grouping together of 18 economies in the Asia Pacific region which provides a platform for economies as diverse, as USA to Papua New Guinea, to discuss and resolve economic issues. The major target for the body is the realization of the trade free area by year 2020. The APEC trade ministers met in New Zealand and finalised the agenda for the first WTO ministerial meeting held at Singapore in December ’96.
The meeting focused on regional trade and investment issues. At the end of the session, the delegates agreed to the so-called Bogor Declaration, named for the site of the conference, which covered six main issues : it urged liberalization of regional trade and investment; it emphasized the importance of strengthening the global trading system through participation in and support for GATT and the new World Trade Organisation that was to replace it; advanced industrial countries pledged to liberalize trade and investment by 2010, while the lesser developed nations would have until 2020 ; in order to smooth trade relations, the members agreed to reduce barriers to market entry, such as unrealistically high standards, complex certification procedures and other unnecessary trade regulations ; they agreed to cooperate to promote small and medium enterprises, science and technology and human resources and they agreed to explore ways to manage regional trade friction.